Every year since I began my teaching career, I have spent the first meeting of each class going over the class rules and expectations. I started my career in elementary school, advanced to 8th grade U.S. history, and eventually ended up in the media center 13 years ago. In all those years and all those venues, it’s never failed – as soon as I finished reviewing the classroom rules a hand would shoot up and its owner would inquire, “Well, what if (insert possible scenario here)?” That one question would invariably beget others, starting a veritable firestorm of possible exceptions to the rules.
Every year. Without fail.
This year, I was almost dreading 6th grade library orientation day with its 12 classes worth of “What If” scenarios. As I prepared the lesson and tried to mentally gird myself for the inevitable, I asked myself - down deep, what are my basic expectations for student behavior in the media center?
Friday morning, the first group arrived. I introduced myself, told them that our plan for the lesson was to go over my rules and procedures, orient everyone to the media center, and have checkout time. Then I called an audible. I looked at all those bright, shiny faces and said:
“I know that you've heard the school rules and have reviewed them in all of your classes, but in here you just have two things to remember: 1)Treat everyone with respect and 2) Don’t do dumb stuff. If you follow those two rules, we’ll be good.” This was followed by silence. There were several nods, some smiles, and several shocked looks. But there were no hands and no questions.
Not one. All day.
And through twelve classes, we had the smoothest 6th grade first checkout day ever.
As teachers we often feel the need to be eloquent and model the use of elevated vocabulary. But we also need to remember that sometimes there is something to be said for keeping it simple.
As a teacher librarian in a 6-8 middle school, when I'm not dreaming up all sorts of tactics to get books into my students' hands, I am seeking new ways to harness technology to help them learn.
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